Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Humbled, but not surprised

Last week Monday night Marvin and I finished our first 8-week session of agility. It was our intro/beginner course and it went well (really well). Marvin is a goof ball so my gut feeling that he would enjoy trying different jumping and climbing obstacles proved to be right.

We both enjoyed it a lot. I loved seeing the light bulb go off when he figured out what I was asking of him and watching him prance across the dog walk. I felt some frustration at first when he just didn't "get" that he needed to run through the tunnel rather than turn around inside and come back out the same end ... or jump up and walk along the top (okay, we all laughed at that one!). I didn't loose patience or faith in him though. He was doing great. And suddenly, one week he just went through the tunnel. And went through every time after that evening. He got it and I was so proud!

But what I loved the most was the feeling of teamwork. I was so surprised to discover how attentive he was to me. He actually watched me to see what direction I was going to give and, especially once we got moving through a course, he stayed with me and remained attentive on the task at hand. I expected his beagle nose to take over more often than not as I'd stand helpless while he'd flit from this scent to that. Sure there was some of that before we started a run, but if I stayed really interesting to him (read tasty treats), he kept his snouting at bay.

I would be so proud of him after we left class each week that I would play Josh Rouse's song, Marvin Gaye, in the car over and over and sing along as the lyrics repeated "you are a star, you are a star ..." (I'm not sure what the rest of the lyrics are about really – all that mattered to me was to tell him he's a star!). (Funny, I just realized as I typed this that the song I sang to him is named after a Marvin. :)

Everyone in the class, instructors included, were so supportive of all efforts made. It was such a positive experience. And Marvin made an impression of his own ... people started calling him a "rock star". That's my boy!


Last night we started our 8-week intermediate session. A whole new group of people and dogs. A whole new set of potential expectations. Initially it felt like a whole new experience all together and I wondered if we were in over our heads.

I was immediately taken aback when I saw fellow classmates walking the pre-set course before class. What? Dave didn't mention anything about walking the course ... why are they all out there? So we went and followed along, and crap, those six jumps are awfully close together in that weird shape ... I sure hope I remember the order once it's our turn ...

All in all each dog and handler did first one half, then the other half of the course once. It turned out everyone dealt with their own little version of chaos. Mine of course was the beagle nose rearing it's persistent head. I wasn't interesting enough nor were turkey hot dogs tasty enough to keep Marvin focused without breaks of snouting on both of our runs. He did take all the obstacles however, even the tunnel especially enthusiastically. And instead of calling Marvin a "rock star" last night, instructor Melissa called him a "little hound"! Oh no, there goes the reputation!

We'll call it temporary though, as apparently this is typical chaos of a first class. It's all new so who can blame them. It certainly felt very new to me.

So with some extra "focus" homework hopefully our rock star will reappear to the class in a couple weeks.

Of course, to me, he's a rock star "as is".


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